20 November 2023

Technical Inspection

Tips for driving in summer heat this December

With the December holidays just around the corner, it's the time of the year when we start planning epic road trips and adventures across the beautiful landscapes of South Africa. You might remember that we recently shared an article featuring five jaw-dropping scenic routes for holidaymakers to explore during the upcoming festive season. If you're one of the local explorers gearing up for your own road trip this December, we've got some important advice as you finalise your arrangements. Whether it's for you, your passengers, or your trusty vehicle, managing the sizzling summer heat should be at the top of your prep list and we here at DEKRA want to help you do it.

Image credit: ABTOWKONA TEXHNKA from Pixabay

Keep Cool While in Your Car

When the summer sun is blazing, keeping cool inside your car can make all the difference during a road trip. Not only that, what you do with your vehicle before and after the drive plays just as important a role. Let's take a look at how you can keep cool in your car while on your December road trip.

1. Use Air Conditioning Wisely: Set your car's air conditioning to a comfortable temperature and avoid making it too cold, as very low temperatures can lead to discomfort for some and excessive fuel consumption.

2. Ventilation: Crack open the windows slightly to allow fresh air to circulate. It will help prevent the car from becoming stuffy or too hot inside. If you park somewhere with the windows open a fraction, make sure it's a safe space or somewhere you can keep an eye on your vehicle.

3. Sunshades: Place sunshades or use window tint to block direct sunlight and reduce heat buildup inside your car. This will help to maintain a cooler interior.

4. Hydration: Keep a supply of cold water in the car to stay hydrated and refreshed throughout the journey. A portable car refrigerator will be an invaluable investment.

5. Dress Lightly: Wear light, breathable clothing to remain comfortable and avoid overheating.

6. Seat Covers: Consider using seat covers specifically designed to stay cool in hot weather, since they can prevent uncomfortable, sweaty seats.

7. Cooling Towel: Use a cooling towel around your neck or on your forehead for instant relief from the heat. If you invested in a portable car refrigerator, you can store your towel there when you're not using it.

8. Avoid Hot Surfaces: Place a cloth or towel on the steering wheel and seats to prevent them from getting too hot to the touch while you're away from your car.

9. Plan Rest Stops: Schedule regular rest stops at shaded areas or rest areas with amenities to cool off, stretch your legs, and take a break from driving in summer heat.

Bonus tip: Always wear sunscreen, even while driving and especially when it's cloudy outside.

How to Prevent Your Car from Overheating

- Check Your Vehicle's Cooling System

Something that'll keep your summer road trip from turning into a roadside meltdown is your car's cooling system. Here's why it's kind of a big deal: South African Decembers are well-known to be scorchers. If your engine gets too hot, you might find yourself stuck on the side of the road instead of sipping that beachside cocktail you've been looking forward to.

Make a habit of regularly checking your radiator. Ensure it's in good shape and free from any leaks or damage. Then, peek at your coolant levels since low levels can lead to overheating. Finally, don't forget about your cooling fan. It's like your car's personal AC. Make sure it kicks in when things start to heat up. With a well-maintained cooling system, you're ready to cruise through those sunny December days without breaking a sweat.

- Proper Tyre Maintenance

Having your tyres throwing a tantrum on a scorching highway in the middle of nowhere is the absolute worst. The golden rule when it comes to tyres is to maintain proper tyre pressure. Why? Well, it's like giving your tyres a comfy cushion to roll on, and it prevents those dreaded blowouts that can turn a good day into a flat-out disaster. Most vehicles will have a sticker with the recommended tyre pressure on it when you open the door to the driver's side of the vehicle.

It's also very important for you to keep an eagle eye on your tyres for signs of wear and tear. Tread looking a bit sketchy or uneven? Time to swap out those puppies. Proper tyre maintenance isn't just about keeping you safe; it's also about making sure your road trip remains smooth and drama-free.

Bonus tip: Three signs of tyre wear and tear

  • Uneven tread wear
  • Bald Spots
  • Cracks or cuts

Read: Buying New Tyres? Here's How To Choose The Right Ones

Image credit: Waldemar on Unsplash

- Park Smart

Why is it so important to find a nice shady spot to park your car when you're not driving in summer heat? Well, leaving your car to bake in the sun for hours on end can turn it into a sauna on wheels. Hot seats, anyone? It's not fun when you're wearing something short! And let's not even talk about holding onto a steering wheel that wants to give you second-degree burns.

So, here's what you can do: Seek out shaded parking spots like trees, buildings, shade ports or anything that can offer shelter from the sun. And if there's no shade in sight, consider using sunshades or tinted windows to keep things cooler inside. Park smart, and your car will thank you with a comfortable, temperate interior.

Bonus tip: If it's a particularly hot day and you have the time, open all the doors and windows to quickly let out any heat buildup.

What to Do If You Get Stranded After Driving in Summer Heat

1. Vehicle Breakdown

If your ride decides to take a time out on the side of the road, don't panic. Safely steer it off the road and switch on those hazard lights. Unless you're 100% sure it's safe to get out or there's a shaded area nearby, stay inside your car. It will offer you more protection from the blazing sun than standing around outside waiting for help.

2. Contact Assistance

Whether it's roadside assistance, an emergency services hotline, or your insurer, make that call. Don't forget to take note of your location. GPS coordinates or nearby landmarks are your secret weapons here to make it easy for help to find you. The more precise, the better.

3. Emergency Kit

Always have a well-stocked emergency kit in your car. Pack it with water, non-perishable snacks, a trusty flashlight, and some first aid goodies. You never know when you will need them most.

4. Stay Hydrated and Cool

If your emergency kit is well stocked, or you packed water for your trip, remember to stay hydrated. And if you've got a portable fan, use it. No fan? No worries. If you decide to stay in your car, cracking the windows a smidge for some airflow can be a game-changer.

Image credit: Steve Johnson on Unsplash

In the midst of South Africa's sweltering December temperatures, the challenges of driving in summer heat cannot be ignored. As holidaymakers set out to explore the breathtaking terrains of our nation, preparation becomes crucial to ensure a seamless and safe journey. Equipping yourself with knowledge and proactive measures, such as using sunshades, maintaining proper tyre pressure, and having a well-stocked emergency kit, can make a world of difference. A crucial step towards safety you simply cannot ignore, DEKRA encourages all drivers to undertake a Technical Inspection of their vehicle before embarking on their December road trip. Embrace the thrill of adventure, but remember, the journey is just as important as the destination. Stay cool, stay safe, and most importantly, enjoy every moment of your holiday travels.